What is Ear Candy (Ear Candy Meaning in Music)

Ear candy is a term which gets thrown around a lot by mixing engineers including myself here on this site. Let’s identify what this element of mixing is and why it’s so important.

Ear Candy Meaning

ear candy meaning

When we’re referring to something in a mix as ear candy, we’re talking about a metaphorical cherry on top. Okay, I’m mixing metaphors here, but basically ear candy is anything which isn’t ESSENTIAL to the production but something which makes the mix more interesting in that moment.

In other words, this doesn’t refer to the fundamentals of mixing.

EQing a snare to have a little more “crack” or body, using compression to keep a vocal up front, these are just fundamental and essential fixes which make the mix sound better.

What IS ear candy then? It’s likely best explained using examples.

Ear Candy Examples

To better illustrate this concept, let’s look at some ear candy examples. These are things you can add to your mix to spice up certain stretches to make things sound a little more interesting and retain your listener’s engagement.

Vocal Throws

A vocal throw refers to an isolated, one off vocal part which is used to fill in a gap.

When you’ve got a simple vocal part of just a couple notes or syllables which is followed by an otherwise silent bar vocal-wise, you can insert a vocal part there to fill that space.

A typical choice is to use a note synced vocal delay fill that void in perfect time. Filtering the delayed signal, particularly low pass filtering it to take off some of the top end and make it sound like it’s coming from farther away in the mix, helps it to contrast with the clean vocal.

Vocal Ad Libs

In the same vein as vocal throws, it’s commonplace for a vocalist to go back in after tracking the main vocal and add some ear candy in the form of ad libs.

This is useful for filling in gaps where there’s nothing else going on or simply adding in little vocal tastes between or around the vocal itself.

You obviously get this a lot in rap, but more musical or melody-based vocal ad libs can add a little flavor to your mix regardless of the genre.

LFO Modulation

One of my evergreen music mixing tips was to use mixing automation or in other words keep things changing in your mix.

This is exactly what LFOs, or low frequency oscillators, do to your audio: they change some element to achieve a number of different effects.

I talked all about many of the audio effects which rely on LFOs, but adding any of these effects to otherwise “dry” audio can help give the mix more depth or at the first least make it feel more alive and engaging for the listener as some element is changing.

A nice thing about these types of effects (chorus, phaser, tremolo, flanger, etc.) is that they’re quick to set up and evolve the sound of your audio without your having to set up the automation yourself.


Samples, meaning prerecorded audio clips which come from outside of the tracks recorded for your mix can also help to spice things up.

I like to supplement my drums with 808 styled drums on occasion, like for a fill for example. The lofi sound of the 808 toms work nicely alongside the natural sound of my organic drum fill to set up the next part.

You don’t always have to go scrounging the internet for samples, either. My Ableton Live for example has a built in folder with stock samples which are great for checking out either for inclusion in your mix or even kick starting an idea for a new song.


Of course it’s easy to fall into the realm of cheesiness with (certain) samples so that’s something to keep in mind.

The late 90’s and early 00’s pop and rock in particular were lousy with songs which worked/forced in eye roll worthy sound effects to accompany or reflect the theme of the lyrics from one moment to the next.

Sometimes cheesiness is okay, it’s just a question of does the value added outweigh the cheese factor.

I mentioned earlier that ear candy wasn’t essential to the production, but you can easily make the argument that it SHOULD be.

Making the mix sound good is always priority number one. Once it’s where you want it tonally and balance-wise, listen for any stretches in the mix where it’s feeling empty or bland.

Just like with over-compression, you don’t want to fill the mix to the brim with TOO much ear candy as this will overload the listen and ironically cause them to lose interest.

A good mix is all about dynamics and this applies to volume, energy, AND a responsible use of extracurricular elements like ear candy.

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